Keiso Mohloboli and Limpho Sello
POLICE recruits on Friday assaulted four soldiers during a stop-and-search operation, reportedly after finding them with firearms, sparking an angry reaction which saw the military descending on Pitso Ground Police Station.
When the Sunday Express crew visited Pitso Ground Police Station at around 4pm, heavily-armed soldiers could be seen patrolling the area, while a large crowd had also gathered to witness the spectacle. Other army personnel had gone into the station — allegedly to confront the recruits in question and “teach them a lesson”.
And while the Sunday Express and other bystanders watched, a soldier caressing a machine gun sarcastically asked a female police officer standing at the entrance of the station and holding an AK47 rifle: “What do you think you will do with a gun only loaded with 30 bullets against this?”
A soldier who identified himself as Corporal Moferefere Khobotle told the Sunday Express “on record”, that the police recruits had severely assaulted the soldiers, whose ranks could not be established, for no apparent reason, hence the army presence at Pitso Ground Police Station.
“I was passing by and witnessed the assaults at the Manonyane Bus Stop area almost two hours ago. It appears these recruits, who are still at the Police Training College, were conducting a stop-and-search operation, when they found the four soldiers with pistols.
“But the soldiers were denied an opportunity to explain that they were with the Lesotho Defence Force; they could not even take out their identity and employment cards that could have confirmed that indeed, they are with the LDF.
“Suddenly, the men were being beaten-up with batons; it was horrible to watch, as they sustained head injuries and had blood gushing out of the wounds.”
Khobotle also claimed the recruits attacked the four “knowing very well that they are soldiers as they were putting on their military hats and tops”.
“These recruits were in the company of their supervisor, and were taking instructions from him.
“I became angry when I saw their supervisor, who is a Senior Inspector, allow the recruits to beat up the soldiers and injure them like that. I intervened and showed him that was not the way to handle the situation, and asked that we go to Pitso Ground Police Station to discuss the matter, hence you see us here,” Khobotle said.
While Khobotle was speaking with the Sunday Express, members of the public who had gathered to investigate what had transpired started throwing stones at the recruits. Some cars passing by and parked at the station had their windows broken during the melee.
“The soldiers did not, in any way, interfere with the police stop-and-search operation, but were surprised by how they were treated, and so was I. They sustained head injuries and want to open cases against these recruits,” Khobotle said.
The soldiers, however, eventually left the police station and it was not immediately clear what had transpired inside the Pitso Ground Police Station.
Contacted yesterday, the Lesotho Defence Force spokesperson Major Ntlele Ntoi refused to comment, while police spokesperson, Senior Inspector Lebona Mohloboli said it was all a case of communication breakdown.
“There was miscommunication between police recruits and army officers during a stop-and-search operation that led to fights,” Mohloboli said.
“The dispute was resolved following the intervention of senior police officers, Maseru District Urban Commissioner Mofokeng Kolo and LDF authorities.”